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Putin says Russia must tackle waste crisis

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia needed to improve its waste management, after stinking and dangerous landfills sparked a national protest movement.

“We haven’t addressed the so-called waste problems for a century, that is to say, never,” Putin said during an annual speech setting out the Kremlin’s policy priorities.

“We must form a civilised and safe waste-management system,” he said, adding that simply hiking utility fees would fail to address the underlying issue.

Russia has seen a wave of protests over the last year against the storage of Moscow’s garbage in the provinces, after landfills around the capital filled up and began catching fire.

This month rallies took place under a national slogan “Russia is not a dump” in 20 to 30 cities, according to reports, the largest of which attracted around 2,000 people in the northern city of Arkhangelsk.

Putin promised in his speech to “close or re-cultivate” all non-functioning dumps over the next six years.

He also said he wanted the percentage of recycled waste to rise from the current eight percent to 60 percent, “to avoid accumulating new millions of tonnes of trash”.

Most Russian cities have no municipal recycling programmes, despite polls in recent years showing that a considerable share of the population is ready to sort their rubbish.

According to Greenpeace Russia, less than 15 percent of Russians in large cities have access to recycling facilities.

Russians have protested the building of new waste incineration plants, as well as a new fee for waste removal introduced into monthly utilities bills this year.